Three months ago North Dakota dealer Donovan Bertsch advertised for a parts manager. He received no applications.
But to his surprise in early March, two service technicians who once worked at nearby oil fields approached him asking for jobs.
"We haven't had that happen for years," said Bertsch, owner of Theel Inc., a Chevrolet-Buick dealership in Bottineau, N.D.
Oil drillers are cutting production in response to lower crude prices, meaning fewer oil jobs. Bertsch's store is within 10 miles of several small oil fields. It is 100 miles east of a large oil field, where the active drilling rig count is down to 116 vs. more than 200 at its peak, he said.
Some dealers in oil-laden states such as Texas, Oklahoma, Alaska, North Dakota and California say some of the service technicians who had fled for the rich-paying oil-industry jobs a few years ago are trickling back. But the dealers are reluctant to raise pay to keep the techs. Instead, they are offering a better work culture.